Harold Begbie


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

(1871–1929) married Gertrude Seale. Born in Suffolk, fifth son of a Church of England clergyman, he tried to become a poet, but after various rebuffs became instead a very popular journalist and political commentator. His first job was on the staff of the Globe. He was the author of a number of books for children. His adult fiction is anodyne and diverse, with a consistent emphasis on the steadying effects of religion. Racket and Rest (1908), for example, features a young woman from the chorus line who rises to be a star of musical comedy, deserts her suburban husband and their child, falls in with a dissolute man-about-town, and is eventually redeemed through the pious influence of her husband's widowed mother. The Challenge (1911) is that presented by India to the young wife of a dull civil servant: spirituality enables her to meet it. Other challenges involve an unhappy marriage, in The Cage (1909); alcoholism, in the bestselling Broken Earthenware (1909); and the Romanizing methods of the ‘Secret Society of Nicodemus’, in The Priest (1906). Begbie held the view that the Church of England was in danger from its Anglo-Catholic wing. His first novel, The Curious and Diverting Adventures of Sir John Sparrow, Bart. (1902), is a light-hearted treatment of a favourite Edwardian theme: the dangers of open-mindedness. The hero, an amiable baronet, a Don Quixote in modern London, flirts successively with vegetarianism, theosophy, the ‘natural life’, and Zionism. The Distant Lamp (1913) is a historical romance about the children's crusade. Begbie also published On the Side of the Angels (1915), controverting Arthur Machen's claim that the legend of the Angels of Mons derived from a story written by Machen. The German novelist Ernst Jünger (1895–1998) praised in his diary (17 Sept. 1942) the discussion of alcoholism as a spritual weakness in Begbie's Broken Earthenware (1909). Like ‘Saki’ Begbie wrote a political satire in the form of a parody of Alice in Wonderland; Begbie's, which was written with J. S. Ransome and M. H. Temple as ‘Caroline Lewis’, was called Clara in Blunderland (1902). He also sometimes published anonymously.

From The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.